Backbeat: Theophilus London Joins Kobalt, Orchard Execs at Nokia/Billboard Luncheon for U.S. Launch of Nokia Music
Backbeat: Theophilus London Joins Kobalt, Orchard Execs at Nokia/Billboard Luncheon for U.S. Launch of Nokia Music

From left: Theophilus London, Nokia Music's Jyrki Rosenberg, manager Brendan Fallis and Warner Bros. Records' Lori Feldman check out the Nokia's new Nokia Music at Friday's luncheon celebrating the service's U.S. launch.

On Friday, Nokia and Billboard teamed up for a luncheon celebrating the U.S. launch of Nokia Music, the company's free music-streaming service. The luncheon, held at Olive's in the W Hotel in New York's Union Square, brought in several dozen influencers and tastemakers from the music business for a brief presentation on the service and some hands-on testing of it (courtesy the Lumia devices at each table) as well as a delicious lunch.

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In the house were hosts Jyrki Rosenberg of Nokia and Bill Werde of Billboard; Nokia's Mike Bebel, Mitch Rubin, Jonathan Dworkin, Theo Gupta, Agnes Pokornicki and others; rapper Theophilus London and manager Brendan Fallis; Warner Bros.' Lori Feldman; Kolbalt's Willard Ahdritz and Michael Peterson; Sundance Channel's Christian Vesper; The Orchard's Brad Navin; CBS' Ezra Kucharz and Marjorie Hall; Harry Fox Agency's Lauren Apolito; ASCAP's Matt DeFillipis; and many more.

werde Billboard editorial director Bill Werde speaks at the luncheon.

The service is currently exclusive to owners of the Nokia Lumia 900 or Nokia Lumia 710, who can download the app from the Marketplace. It includes 150-plus exclusive playlists (and the ability to create playlists of your own), a gig-finder to locate live events by favorite artists, and connects to Nokia's MP3 store for download purchases. The service does not have advertising or require a fee to join -- it is simply a value-added product for being a Nokia owner.

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Explaining the motivation behind the service, Rosenberg, Nokia's Vice President of Entertainment, told Billboard.biz, "It's all about music and simplicity. We wanted there to be less stuff between you and the music -- less technology, less anything -- and we wanted it to be mobile-optimized. The relationship you have with your favorite music is so deep and so strong that we also wanted to make the music is exactly what you want: Whether it's a curated playlist, artist channels, or the personal feature, which takes all the updates from your current catalog and mixes your new music based on that."

From Left: Nokia's Mike Bebel, Kobalt's Michael Petersen, Nokia's Mitch Rubin and Kobalt's Willard Ahdritz.

The artist channels are one of the most appealing things about the service, with specialized playlists from Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Green Day (who played a concert at New York's Irving Plaza celebrating the service on Saturday night) and others. Obtaining those playlists, which is done by Nokia's artist-relations team, can be done very quickly.

theo Nokia's Andy Gaitskell-Kendrick with Theophilus London.

"Some of the artists we've worked with before, so we can do it in hours -- really quick," Rosenberg said. "It's quite optimized. But with some artists there's more to get it together."

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Asked which artist he was most excited about getting involved in Nokia Music, Rosenberg enthused, "I've been a great fan of Green Day for so long that I was really excited about that, but I was very pleased that a lot of artists we've worked with like Rihanna -- I've learned to appreciate a wider range of music through this partnership so I am a great Rihanna fan now, but I've been a Green Day fan for as long as they've been around." He also said he's eager to bring the festival channels, which are available overseas, to the U.S. market -- which is, needless to say, rife with music festivals year-round. "When we start going to the festivals and traveling around the US, we can start adding things," he said. "The idea is, if you go to a festival and you listen to bands, then a month later you want to take yourself back to that experience -- that's part of the way to remind you of the experience."

london Rapper Theophilus London (left) with Nokia Music Vice President of Entertainment Jyrki Rosenberg at the Nokia Music luncheon last Friday.

Nokia Music's revitalized service was made available in Europe and overseas at the end of last year, and Rosenberg said the reaction has been extremely positive. "If you look at it from the consumer satisfaction reports -- Nokia Music actually theoretically gets the highest score -- so we're at the top, it's doing really well," he said. "I'll tell you another piece of information I don't think I've said before… in India we have a free download product. We had a million downloads per day. And it's actually an initial start for us -- because we launched and rearranged, but last week we went over a million downloads per day."

coltrane Team Epiphany's Coltrane Curtis (left) and Nokia's Dean Fitzpatrick.

Each market has specially customized categories, one of which -- Finland's "Viking Metal" -- seemed particularly interesting to one new user. Are there any plans to make any of the categories available in other territories?

From left: Kobalt's Michael Petersen and Willard Ahdritz with Nokia's Mitch Rubin.

"Viking Metal we only have in Finland now, but if you really like we can make it available here if you want," he smiled. "With most of these channels we follow the feedback for the market -- if we see that something starts to get a lot of play, we'll start adding that on a channel, and continue to optimize for the market. You're not the only one today to ask for Viking Metal, so we'll see!"

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